Leaf of the Day: Buddha’s Hand Citrus

In amongst the chat about the gardens, the weather, pods and seeds and astonishing ingenuity of nature, Pedro and I have occasionally talked about Buddhism. I think the first time was in reference to the beautiful Bo tree under which the Buddha was sitting when he gained enlightenment. (I drew the leaf from the Marie Selby gardens here.) Pedro had asked me if I had a religion to which my answer was an unswerving and unequivocal no. However if, with a gun to my head, I had to choose, Buddhism would seem to be one I could go along with. Something that, as Christmas Humphries explains ” has no dogmas, satisfies the reason and the heart alike, insists on self-reliance coupled with tolerance for other points of view, embraces science, religion, philosophy, psychology, ethics and art, and points to man alone as the creator of his present life and sole designer of his destiny.” seems something hard to argue with.

Yesterday Pedro, who is also a Buddhist at heart, gave me the copy of the Noble Eight Fold Path .. all of whose directions seem to me to be quite hard to steer along. We agreed that, given the stresses and stains of dealing with other humans, “right mindedness” seemed the most difficult.
We said goodbye wishing each other a good and right minded weekend and as I was walking towards the exit, a path I use every time I go to the garden, there for the first time I saw this odd and wonderful fruit, labelled boldly “Buddha’s Hand Citrus”.. Jung would just call it more synchronicity.. what would Buddha call it I wonder?

So my drawing today, the auspicious first day of August is of the strange Citrus medica , Buddha’s Hand Citron. Looking like an aberration of a lemon with fingers that in this case are closed but in more ripe ones open up alarmingly into the grasping gnarled hands of scarecrows or goblins. Mine is obviously an unripe one as it is mostly green with only one finger beginning to uncurl and yellow at the tip.

Image from Logees tropical fruits here

It seems this fruit is a very ancient relative of the lemon. It smells very lemony but has neither flesh nor juice but used for its peel to make candied peel, see more here , to lend a lemony scent to clothes and cupboards, and put into glass jars like some horrid pickled specimen to flavour Vodka which is apparently very delicious. ( Hangar One Vodka here)

Legend has it that Buddha had picked a fruit from a citrus tree but finding it bitter and inedible held out his hand to make the tree disappear, but in the true spirit of Buddhism he relented, allowing the tree to live providing it altered its shape into something that humans would find more pleasing. The sensible tree, seeing the outstretched hand of its benefactor immediately transformed itself into the hand of the Buddha, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery I suppose.

There are many beautiful carved jades of Buddha’s hands this one from the 1800s, China.from the The Avery Brundage Collection here

This venerated object became an important offering in Chinese New Year ceremonies, offered up in porcelain bowls to the household gods. It is a symbol of good luck and happiness along with the peach, for long life and the pomegranate for many children. It is carried around as a talisman to bring good fortune and its lovely fragrance used to scent the home. I will be keeping mine very close, it’s a very nice object. It fits snugly in the hand and I now discover that this one is particularly lucky as the “fingers” are mostly closed signifying the hand in prayer.

So today, a drawing and a watercolour of the Buddha’s hand, with the other three fruits I tried yesterday. The strawberry guava to the left, the Natal plum centre and half a normal guava, right.

The Buddha’s Hand Citrus

Leaf of the Day: The Tree of Enlightenment, a BoTree Leaf

It is the first of April and an auspicious day for some enlightenment I think.
As well as the course last week, I managed to get to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota. It’s a small, pretty botanical garden, extended from the once private house of the Selby’s, sitting on the beautiful sweeping Sarasota Bay. It has a particularly nice orchid house, very good labelling and enthusiastic guides to help you. I have added to my Florida snake sightings too and have now seen the huge glowing Yellow Rat Snake which was draped over a large tree branch taking some sun. It was much brighter than the photograph here.

Rat Snake image Encarta

I could only stay for an hour so I took a few photographs but will definitely want to return. I did find the beautiful Bo tree which was at the far end of the gardens. There were plenty of fallen leaves and I felt I should gather one or two in the hopes of some much needed enlightenment rubbing off on me.
Another member of the energetic fig family, the ficus religiosa is the tree under which the Buddha was sitting when he gained enlightenment.

It’s a very lovely tree and the leaves have a beautiful tapering point. (They are well known to craft people as these are the skeleton leaves that you find in hobby stores.) Bo trees are always planted near temples and they are a symbol of good luck, peace, happiness and of course enlightenment. This particular tree was blown down in tropical storm Gabrielle which hit the Gulf coast in 2001. A plaque describes how their much loved Bo was carefully and lovingly coaxed upright with the help of a fifty foot crane, replanted and revitalised. Two quotes from the Buddha on the plaque are not bad maxims for life.

“Your work is to discover your world and then, with all your heart, give yourself to it”

“I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act but I believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act”

I also didn’t have time to see the exhibition of Boruca Indian Masks from Costa Rica .. so I really have to get back there before the end of April. I had seen these intricately caved masks in a fabulous Carnival exhibition in San Jose’s Museum when I was in Costa Rica two years ago now. The masks are wonderful…here is an image from a previous exhibition. I will write more when I can get back to Sarasota.

My modest little watercolour today is just to celebrate April.. the month in England that leads up to the prettiest garden month in the year.
So a purple ( the colour of wisdom and knowledge) Bo leaf with a bit of colour theory thrown in for good measure.

The Bo Leaf